A Wellness Curriculum

School districts in Marion and Citrus Counties are utilizing wellness programs to help employees be healthier. And Hernando County will soon join them.

Forest High School reading teacher Yvonne Gillum knew she could be healthier. Although she didn’t have any major health concerns, Gillum thought she should lose a few pounds, as well as improve her blood pressure and cholesterol numbers. Fortunately for her, the Marion County Public Schools Employee Wellness Program provided just what she needed to reach her healthy goals.

“I was interested in improving my overall health, and when the 2013 school year began, I decided to do something about it,” says Gillum, 56, who has taught at Forest High School for 10 years.

“I was aware of the school district’s employee wellness program but hadn’t really looked into it. Well, when I did, I discovered it was a wonderful program and I’d be a fool not to take advantage of it.”

The Marion County school district pays 100 percent of the Florida Blue health insurance premium for each full-time employee, who is also eligible to participate in the wellness program. The multifaceted-program offers diabetes screening and management, nicotine cessation, wellness (blood pressures, cholesterol, etc.) assessments, lifestyle improvement, flu shots, on-going group fitness classes and a three-month L.E.A.N. 4 Life course. Except for the latter two, there is no charge for all the other programs. There is an annual $10 charge for the group fitness classes and a $25 fee for the L.E.A.N. 4 Life course. Ocala-based Barrett, Liner & Company is the Marion County school district Florida Blue provider and oversees the wellness program. Barrett, Liner & Company employee Laurel Lingle is the wellness coordinator for the program.

“After looking at all the programs, I decided first to go with the L.E.A.N. 4 Life course,” says Gillum. “I felt like it would give me a good solid foundation.”

The course’s acronym stands for lifestyle, education, activity and nutrition, delivering a well-rounded approach to improving and maintaining health. The lifestyle/education portion includes seven group education classes focusing on making healthy lifestyle changes. For the activity segment, participants receive a free limited membership to Munroe Regional Medical Center’s LifeTime Fitness and are required to exercise at least three hours a week. The nutrition component includes a personalized nutrition program.

“I loved the individual attention I got at the gym with a personal trainer and in every aspect of the program,” says Gillum. “It also gave me a sense of accountability, which was very important to keep me motivated.”

Gillum, who prefers to avoid the scale, gauged her improvements when “my clothes started fitting much better, my energy level soared and I definitely got stronger from the weight training.” Gillum’s blood pressure and cholesterol numbers also improved. Since completing the L.E.A.N. 4 Life course, Gillum has continued to incorporate what she learned into her everyday life.

“I have a green juice smoothie every morning, and I’m cutting back on how much red meat I eat,” she says. “And now I’m doing group fitness classes, including weight training and Zumba, four times a week. I tell all my fellow teachers that the wellness program is great and that they need to sign up.”

Gillum’s assessment of the program’s effectiveness is backed up by facts. For the last three years, the American Heart Association has recognized the Marion County school district as having a platinum “Fit Friendly” workplace.

“The wellness program began in 2008 and then included diabetes management, wellness screenings and flu shots,” says Lingle, who is not only the wellness coordinator but also teaches group fitness classes at Barrett, Liner & Company. “As we added programs, we also gained new participants. We just added fitness classes for retired school district employees who are still on the insurance plan.”

Lingle estimates that a little more than 1,000 of the school district’s 6,000 employees are active participants in at least one of the wellness program offerings. And not only are the employees participants, some are fitness instructors. There are 12 school district employees who are certified personal trainers or Zumba instructors; they assist Lingle in teaching the popular group fitness classes. While Lingle teaches her classes on-site at Barrett, Liner & Company, the school district employees hold classes at schools throughout the county.

The wellness program has formed community partnerships, including Munroe Regional Medical Center and the YMCA. In addition to its LifeTime Fitness being part of the L.E.A.N. 4 Life program, the MRMC Wellness Bus regularly visits each school and other district offices for health screenings. MRMC also administers the flu shot program throughout the school district. The local YMCA recently began providing a diabetes prevention program affiliated with the program.

“And because being healthy is an ongoing process, all the wellness programs continue through the summer,” says Lingle. “We encourage everyone to take advantage of the programs and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.”

Want To Know More?


Laurel Lingle, Wellness Coordinator, Marion County Public Schools

Barrett, Liner & Company

(352) 622-9124

Based on the premise that healthy employees are productive and happy employees, the Citrus County School Board Wellness Center was established in May 2010. The CCSB Wellness Center, located in a leased building in Beverly Hills, is co-managed by CareHere LLC and Crowne Consulting Group. CareHere is a Nashville-based, on-site health care provider, which manages 160-plus health and wellness centers in 22 states. Crowne Consulting Group specializes in on-site wellness programs throughout Florida for school districts and other governmental agencies.

“We are very proactive on prevention when it comes to the health of our employees,” says Cheri Cernich, director of risk management and employee relations for the Citrus County public school district. “The wellness center plays a crucial role in achieving that goal.”

For the 2,800 Citrus County school district employees, as well as their spouses and dependents, who are covered by the CCSB health insurance plan, the wellness center is a win-win situation. There are no co-pays or deductibles for services, doctors are on-staff and there are no long waits for most appointments that generally take 30 minutes. There is also an on-site pharmacy that dispenses free selected generic medications. The wellness center is opened Monday through Friday (7am to 6pm) and even on Saturday (9am to 1pm).

“We like to refer to the wellness center as a state-of-the-art facility,” says Cernich. “We are very pleased with its operation and do school visits to encourage our teachers and administrators to take advantage of it.”

A key component of what the wellness center offers is a personal health risk assessment, providing a personalized health analysis for each participant. Cernich points out that “the HRA is a great tool for preventive care before a health condition could become a more serious issue.”

Other services provided through the wellness center include pre-diabetes management, cardiovascular risk reduction, hypertension management, smoking cessation program, immunizations, nutrition and exercise counseling, annual wellness assessment, lab draws, digital X-rays and a 24/7 nurse-staffed health line. Through CareHere Connect, patients can view their medical files and test results online.

For Citrus Springs Middle School teacher Shawn Keenan, the CCSB Wellness Center provided him with the plan for a much healthier life.

“In July 2013, I had reached a critical point in my life and I definitely needed help,” says Keenan, 42, who teaches eighth grade social studies. “I have a family history of health problems, especially on the male side. My blood pressure was very high, and I weighed more than 400 pounds. I knew it was time I made some serious changes or I wouldn’t be around for my sons, Benjamin and Joseph.”

At the CCSB Wellness Center, Keenan underwent a complete health risk assessment and was then put on a personalized program. He was paired up with a nutritionist, who devised a dietary regimen. Encouraged to begin an exercise regimen, Keenan joined a gym.

“It wasn’t easy, but I was motivated. By the 10-month mark, I lost 120 pounds and I’m feeling so much better,” says Keenan. “The Wellness Center and its staff are a great health resource. I couldn’t have gotten healthier without the wonderful care and continued support.”

Want To Know More?


Cherise Cernich, Director of Risk Management & Employee Relations

(352) 726-1931

Hernando County’s Future Plans

According to Roy Gordon, Hernando County Public School public information officer, the district school board is currently reviewing several wellness programs for its employees. Plans are to implement a wellness program for the 2015-2016 school year.

Want To Know More?


Roy Gordon, Public Information Officer

(352) 797-7070


Posted in Marion Features

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